The Inaugural Benjamin B. Ferencz Essay Competition

In 2012, in conjunction with the International Criminal Court at 10 conference, the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute hosted the Benjamin B. Ferencz Essay Competition in honor of former Nuremberg Prosecutor Benjamin B. Ferencz.  As a war crimes investigator during the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, Ferencz gathered evidence of Nazi atrocities in preparation for trials by U.S. Military Commissions. After the war, he was recruited by Telford Taylor, an associate of Justice Robert Jackson, who had been appointed Chief of Counsel for a dozen subsequent proceedings at Nuremberg.  Ferencz soon became the Chief Prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen Case, in which 22 defendants were convicted for the brutal murder of more than a million innocent men, women and children. He was 27 years old at the time.

At Nuremberg, aggressive war-making was branded the “supreme international crime.” Having seen the horrors of war first-hand, Ferencz could not have agreed more with this characterization, and has dedicated his life to seeking a more humane and just legal order.  He has been a passionate advocate for the international rule of law and for the International Criminal Court, and a firm believer in the philosophy of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, that: “In a very real sense, the world no longer has a choice between force and law. If civilization is to survive it must choose the rule of law.”

This competition, held in honor of Benjamin B. Ferencz, addresses the very difficult issue of the relationship between crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression, both as a matter of substantive law and jurisdiction.  In particular, given that the crime of aggression was not enforceable in the ICC, submitted essays addressed whether illegal uses of force, interstate or otherwise, resulting in significant loss of life may be prosecutable before the ICC as crimes against humanity.  


Friday, August 31, 2012, at 5:00 PM (Central Daylight Time)  


The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute would like to thank all the contestants from around the world for participating in the Benjamin B. Ferencz Essay Competition.  After a blind review by a panel of judges, we are pleased to announce that the following individuals have been selected as winners and finalists:


First Place 

#86 - The Fog of War: Prosecuting Illegal Uses of Force as Crimes Against Humanity 
Authors: Manuel J. Ventura, former Trial Support Clerk in the Office of the Prosecutor, ICTY; and Matthew Gillett, Legal Officer in the Office of the Prosecutor, ICTY  
Location: The Hague, The Netherlands 

Second Place 

 #283 - The Crime of Aggression: A Foundational Crime Against Humanity? 
Author: Christopher James Beshara, Double degree in Bachelor of Arts (Hons Class I) '10 and Law (Hons Class I) LLB '12, University of Sydney  
Location: Sydney, Australia 

Third Place 

#453 - Punishing Aggression as a Crime Against Humanity: A Noble But Inadequate Measure to Safeguard International Peace and Security  
Author: Chet J. Tan, Master of Laws (LL.M.) in International and Comparative Law (The George Washington University Law School) 
Location: Makati City, Philippines 


#393 - Aggression Under Control:  Aggression as a Crime Against Humanity at the International Criminal Court  
Author: Jillian Blake, Juris Doctor (JD) 
Location: Alexandria, VA, United States 

#24 - A Blueprint for Prosecuting Aggression as a Crime Against Humanity
Author: Joseph Davids, LL.M. Public International Law
Location: Rome, Italy 

 #59 - Reality and Resolve – Prosecuting Illegal Use of Force as Crimes Against Humanity 
Author: Stephanie Forte, Bachelor of Laws; Certificate of Legal Education pending 
Location: Kingston, Jamaica  

#420 - Aggression: The Supreme International Crime 
Author: Blerina Jasari, LL.M. (French and European Union Law), University of Cergy-Pontoise, France.  Law student at Ruhr University of Bochum, Germany.  
Location: Bochum, Germany 

#31 – An essay on the conditions under which acts that constitute illegal use of armed force and that result in the widespread or systematic attack upon a civilian population may be prosecuted as crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, pursuant to the Rome Statute
Author: James Nyawo, Doctoral Candidate of International Criminal Justice in Africa, Middlesex University (distance learning).
Location: Sudan 

#351 - A Hybrid Strategy to Prosecute the Waging of War 
Author:  Marta Sosa Navarro, LLM (Masters in Human Rights Law); PhD candidate in International Criminal Law 
Location: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain 

#424 - Prosecuting the Crime of Aggression as a Crime against Humanity: An Alternative to the Kampala Amendments 
Author: Pamellah Orata, Bachelors of Laws 
Location: Nairobi, Kenya   

#473 - Releasing the International Criminal Court From the Clutches of Aggression: Prosecuting Acts of Illegal Use of Armed Force As Crimes Against Humanity Under the Rome Statute  
Author: Bhargavi Raman, Currently studying in V Year, B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) at National Law School of India University, Bangalore, India. 
Location: Bangalore, India 

#480 – Closing the Impunity Gap: Capture the Crime of Aggression with Crimes of Humanity 
Author: Kristin Xueqin, BA/LLM Transnational Law Program, Utrecht University/Washington University in St. Louis 
Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands 


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The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University School of Law seeks submissions of essays for the Benjamin B. Ferencz Essay Competition, held on the occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of the International Criminal Court.


  • Contestants must be 20 years of age or older.
  • Contestants must have completed their high school studies.  Law students, PhD students and young scholars are especially invited to apply. 
  • The essay must be written solely by the candidate. 
  • The essay should take the form of a law review style article. 
  • Submissions must be original and unpublished works of under 6,000 words, including footnotes. 
  • Footnotes must conform to authoritative standard rules of legal citation and must include a description of each authority adequate to allow a reasonable reader to identify and locate the authority in a publication of general circulation.
  • The essay must be typed and double-spaced.


  • Contestants are strongly encouraged to register for the competition as soon as possible at the following link:  [Registration].  
  • Submissions must be made electronically at the following link: [Submit your essay]
  • A complete submission includes a cover page with the author’s relevant information (name, contact information, highest level of education completed and area of study, and the registration ID number) and the essay in a Microsoft Word or PDF document. Please ensure that the essay pages do not contain any information about the author. 
  • Contestants may submit only one entry. Multiple or incomplete submissions will not be considered.


The first-place winner of the Essay Contest will receive an award of US$10,000.  Second- and third-place runners-up will each receive an honorable mention and a plaque as well as runner-up awards in the amount of US$2,500 each.  The first-place winner of the Contest will be invited to St. Louis, Missouri, for an award ceremony that will take place during the International Criminal Court at Ten conference in November 2012. The essay will be included in the symposium issue published by the Washington University Global Studies Law Review resulting from the conference.  The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute will cover the winner’s travel expenses to St. Louis, including airfare, accommodations and meals. 

 Please note that there will not be a participation certification given for competing in this essay contest.


  • Entries will be reviewed by a distinguished panel of impartial judges. 
  • Entries will be judged on the basis of originality, style and organization, quality of analysis and quality of research. 
  • Essays will be judged anonymously.


The essay must address the following question:  Under what conditions may acts that constitute illegal use of armed force and that result in the widespread or systematic attack upon a civilian population be prosecuted as crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, pursuant to the Rome Statute.

Contestants are encouraged to consider the following and develop the arguments set forth in the description below:

In June 2010, a conference took place in Kampala, Uganda, to review the Statute that had been adopted in Rome to govern the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was agreed that the new Court would exercise jurisdiction over “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.” Four categories of crimes were identified in article 5 of the Statute as falling within this jurisdiction: the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. However, the Court could only exercise its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression after a number of conditions had been fulfilled. One of the primary goals of the Review Conference in Kampala was to consider amending the Statute to add a definition of the crime of aggression and thereby close the gap in the ICC's jurisdiction. When the Kampala conference ended, a definition of aggression was adopted by consensus, now found in article 8 bis of the Rome Statute, but implementation of that definition was postponed until, at the earliest, 2017, meaning that the Court could not exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression until after that time.  Thus, what the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1945 had condemned as “the supreme international crime” cannot currently be prosecuted at the ICC.

Article 7 of the Rome Statute sets forth a definition of crimes against humanity, and lists as predicate acts, among others, “murder,” “torture,” “enslavement,” “rape” and “other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health” (Article 7(1)(k)). No prior Security Council approval is required for prosecution of crimes against humanity assuming jurisdiction exists under article 13(a) or (c) of the Statute. Intent and knowledge are essential elements that must be proved, and pursuant to article 30(2), a person is deemed to have intent in relation to a consequence where either that person “means to cause that consequence or is aware that it will occur in the ordinary course of events.”

Thus, the question arises whether individuals responsible for the illegal use of armed force, knowing that their actions will result in the killing of large numbers of civilians, may be held accountable for crimes against humanity under the spirit and letter of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.